John Nichols Wins the Hard Way; Sean O’Malley Wins the Really Hard Way (Weekend Recap December 15-17)

Wing Blog head shot

For the second straight weekend, no one won more than one top prize in our featured tourneys (although one player came close). And Sunday’s action reminded us once again of both the formidable power of a well-chosen bomb…and the ways to overcome adversity when the bomb drops and you don’t have it.

Friday’s performer of the day was Michael Ray over at HorsePlayers.

1215 HP NHC 75

He blasted out of the starting gate with three consecutive winners at odds of 15-1, 14-1 and 3-1, then mixed in a couple of more winners from the remaining seven races to rack up a score of $136.40 and win an NHC package in our $75 qualifier. David Browning (four winners) had a pretty great day in his own right to take home the other available NHC package on the cheap.


Rudolph Hardin used a slightly similar style as that of Michael Ray in our $6,000 Guaranteed tourney.

1215 6000 Gtd

He hit the first two races, then rested for a while before nailing the last two races (at odds of 4-5 and 2-1). Hardin’s early double/late double combo garnered himself the $4,960 top prize in the pool-style Pick & Pray that ended with a total pot of $9,920.


Things were a little more tense for Joseph Karabaich in Friday’s Horse Player World Series qualifier.

1215 HPWS

He needed that last-race 2-1 shot (Kulin Rock in Gulfstream’s 10th race) to snag the $1,500 entry to the HPWS.


Trenton Waite accounted for the single highest score of Saturday (and for the weekend, for that matter). That was slightly surprising only insofar as it came in the Saturday featured tourney with the fewest entries.

1216 HPWS Full

Waite registered three wins and another five place collections from 12 races to rack up his impressive $147.10 total. Much of that came via 39-1 longshot Aunt Babe (#3) who captured the 8th at Aqueduct, the New York Stallion Series Fifth Avenue division, by a nose.

Aunt Babe pic
Aunt Babe (#3) scores by a nose at 39-1 at Aqueduct. (Photo credit: NYRA/Coglianese Photo)

Matthew Rentze didn’t have Aunt Babe. But, to his credit, he picked five other winners to make himself the only other player in the field to eclipse triple digits. So he took home the other top prize in our Horse Player World Series full-package ($1,500 entry plus four nights at The Orleans plus $500 for travel) qualifier.


Our other two featured events had significantly more entries than the Horse Player World Series full-package game. And while no one could outdo Waite’s score, the winners hardly snuck in the back door.


Our $20,000 Guaranteed game (which finished with a total purse of $23,240) had a similar feel to Saturday’s HPWS full-package tourney.

1216 20K Gtd

Winner David Sullivan had Aunt Babe among his three contest winners, and he took home the $10,458 top prize. Like Matthew Rentze, Joe Pettit failed to cash on the big New York-bred longshot. But that didn’t stop him from finishing second and claiming the very nice $4,183 pay check that went along with that.


In Saturday’s NHC qualifier over at HorsePlayers, Aunt Babe essentially WAS a prerequisite for achieving any success.

1216 HP NHC

Daniel Zaretsky (four wins and one place) and Matt Miller perhaps both now carry a soft spot for the New York-bred filly who helped propel them to the big dance on the Las Vegas Strip.

Sunday was another day. And with it came another New York Sire Stakes event at Aqueduct. And with that came another contest-changing longshot winner at odds of more than 30-1.

Aqua Bel Sar pic
Aqua Bel Sar holding on to break his maiden at 37-1 Sunday in the Great White Way division of the New York Stallion Series at Aqueduct. His connections say they think this horse will someday take them to Dubai. I am not making this up. (Photo credit: NYRA/Coglianese Photo)

This time it was Aqua Bel Sar (shouldn’t they really have named this horse AQU Bel Sar??) who checked home first at 37-1. Yes, it looked like Aqua Bel Sar may have profited greatly from his nearest pursuer’s rough trip. But in racing, as in contests, as in life, it’s often not a matter of “how” but “how many.”


Lynn McGuire is certainly happy that Aqua Bel Sar held on.

1217 12K Gtd

The longshot win resulted in a win/place collection of $61.80, and that was the lion’s share of McGuire’s winning total of $86.40 in Sunday’s $12,000 Guaranteed game that ended with a total pot of $16,049–$7,222 of which went to McGuire. John “The Clocker” Nichols probably didn’t think as highly of Aqua Bel Sar’s win, because he didn’t have him. But he still managed to grab second place and earn $3,209. John Gaspar ($1,925) came home third.


If Nichols had known ahead of time that a 37-1 shot would win that he did not have, he probably wouldn’t have wanted to enter any tourneys on Sunday. Fortunately, Nichols didn’t know that…

1217 HAW

…because his Aqua Bel Sar-less total of $70.80 was also good for a top prize in our Hawthorne Holiday Extravaganza qualifier. Nichols finished behind only contest winner Jack Farina. No doubt both will be out at Hawthorne paying extra close attention to those New York bred races from Aqueduct come the end of the year.


In our Surfside qualifier, Sean O’Malley had Aqua Bel Sar. And so did John Gaspar. They also had one other collection…a place horse…

1217 Surfside

…the same place horse. And so they finished in a flat-footed tie for the win. HorseTourneys stewards immediately sprang into action, turning off the football game on a nearby television and dusting off our special tiebreaker rules.


There were a couple of times during the day when O’Malley’s horses ran third, and when they did he may have cursed his luck, thinking that the near misses could cost him down the line. In the end, they saved him. Because his two show horses topped Gaspar’s one show finisher. Nary a word had to be spoken. With a collective and highly knowing nod of the head, the HorseTourneys stewards then sent the Surfside prize O’Malley’s way. It’s an often-thankless job…but HorseTourneys stewards stand ever-ready, ever vigilant, to read and carry out our rules.


Jack Jenkins profited from Aqua Bel Sar in our $2,000 Guaranteed Exacta game (that finished with a purse of $3,440)

1217 2000 Gtd Exacta

But, of course, Aqua Bel Sar was only half the answer (albeit the much harder half) in the 8th at Aqueduct. He had to get the 4 horse home for second to cash his $1 exacta of $231.00 and propel himself to a victory worth $1,720. Jenkins also had four other exacta victories to go along with his big one at the Big A.


Aqua Bel Sar was nowhere to be found on any of the tickets in Sunday’s Horse Player World Series…

1217 HPWS

…or Treasure Island NHC Last Chance (for which this was a first chance) games.

1217 TI Last Chance

But that was just fine for $1,500 HPWS winners David Bloom and Steve Stange and $500 Treasure Island victors G.T. Nixon and George Henning.


Meanwhile three people who played Aqua Bel Sar will now be playing Aqu Tam SA plus GP GG OP and FG at the NHC.

1217 NHC

Rich Pawlowski (three wins and two places) and Christy Moore (five wins, zero places) prevailed in our “regular” qualifier, while…

1217 HP NHC Super Q results

…Kyle Fitzgerald just needed a pair of wins and a pair of places to hit the wire first in HorsePlayers’ Super Qualifier.


If the Sunday action felt fast and furious, it should have. Our 12-race featured schedule was completed within about an hour and 45 minutes. This was a function of the day’s available race offerings, as well as the short days on the East Coast. But the winter solstice is fast approaching, which will help a little with daylight. And Santa Anita will be back on the menu a week from tomorrow which will give us more good races to pick from.


Not that there’s anything wrong with fast-paced, high-intensity action every now and then. Thanks for being a part of last weekend’s. And we hope you can join us again for more featured tourney action this Friday and Saturday.